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Being Benedictine

Living the Rule of St. Benedict in Daily Life

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SoulCollage

Now I Become Myself: A New Kind of Hospitality

“Friendship binds past and present and makes bearable the uncertainty of the future. Friendship is…always and everywhere eternal mystery, eternal desire. It is a grasp at the ultimate, the quest for human understanding.”

Joan Chittister, The Friendship of Women

Friendships, both old and new, are a treasure, a gift of hospitality, a welcoming of another into your life. Friendships create space for coming home to oneself, an opportunity to be fully seen as who we are and who we want to become. Friendships are an opportunity to accept the hospitality of another as well, to see ourselves through the eyes of our special friends. Friendships with women are all-at-once sistering, mothering, armchair counseling, and spiritual direction.

Friendship is sacramental, an “outward, visible sign of an inward, invisible grace,” as defined by St. Augustine. Friendship is an invisible grace, a soul connection, that lives on even when friends are not together, when time or distance separate, and even after a dear friend passes. It is a sacred gift to have an old friend, one who has seen you through decades of life. Beth and Judy, friends from “Circle” had that kind of friendship for fifty years.

A short “Circle” story (the longer version HERE) that inspired a new card and brought new insights about hospitality, humility, and friendship:

I met Beth through Katie and then Judy through Beth. Colleen shared her friend, Joyce, with me and she eventually introduced me to SoulCollage. I shared my love of SoulCollage® with Beth, Judy and our Circle through several retreats and social gatherings.  Judy and Beth loved to create cards together—finding images, cutting them out, and when the time was right, pasting them into collages. They looked forward to weekly conversations and new insights. In 2016, their weekly ritual came to an end when Judy passed away. Recently Beth gifted me a bin of SoulCollage® supplies with folders of carefully trimmed images. SoulCollage® was an intimate memory she treasured with Judy, and not something she wanted to continue. Those images came with me on my last retreat.

Now I Become Myself

Sorting through Beth’s images, I came across a photo of Judy and Beth from some 50 years ago. I placed the photo on my table as inspiration, the younger Judy and Beth standing witness to our weekend creativity and to the conversations and insights of the ten women attending.

Judy (left) and Beth (middle), accepting an award on behalf of the Lincoln Mayor’s Committee for International Friendship in Washington DC.

Several of the images I gathered came together in a special way to make a card titled “Another Kind of Hospitality.” I felt the essence of Beth and Judy that weekend and as I work with the meaning of my card. They were not at the retreat, but there were definitely present.

Another Kind of Hospitality–card made from images that Beth had collected.

Reflection: Another Kind of Hospitality

Take off your shoes. Stay awhile.

Join me at the table, there is always an extra place. Break bread with me.

Or sit on the floor. Let’s play, watch, listen, create.

I see you, the One and the Many. I see you in all your many selves—your playfulness, your fear, your loneliness, your becoming. I see that you see me, too.

Welcoming you, I meet a part of myself that perhaps I didn’t see before.

Being with you teaches me about who I am, more of who I am becoming.

I take time to stand still, to be here, to look within. I see me and I see you.

Take your shoes off and stay awhile.

Continue reading “Now I Become Myself: A New Kind of Hospitality”

Now I Become Myself: Stand Still

In the past few months, I have become smitten with the PBS series, Call the Midwife, based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, a midwife in 1950’s London. I have heard of the show for years, but, late to the game, I just started Season 1 in September 2021. (I will likely be through Season 6 by year’s end, so I am unstoppable now.) In Season 3, Nurse Jenny Lee, one of the midwives of Nonnatus House, was grieving the sudden death of her boyfriend. Sister Julienne, recognizing Jenny Lee’s need to acknowledge her grief, suggests that she “take compassionate leave.”

Take compassionate leave.

Such powerful words.

How compassionate that Sr. Julienne understands that going through the motions of “normal” will not be helpful or healing. One must honor the soul’s need for being still with our grief and our many other emotions or experiences. We heal only when we take time to “stand still, to be here”, as May Sarton (1912-1995), American poet, novelist, and memoirist, pens in her poem, “Now I Become Myself.”

As we journey through the many deaths we experience throughout our life, even the little ones where we must let go of our expectations, we must “take compassionate leave” to listen to our soul speak. It is self-compassionate to take time to listen deeply to the soul, to process through, to understand, and make meaning of the experiences of our lives—both the grief and the joy, the transitions from one life stage to another—to just be with our emotions and the response in our body. Sometimes that can be done in our ordinary lives, but other times we may literally need to take leave by going away or on retreat.

Continue reading “Now I Become Myself: Stand Still”

Enough: I Can Never Know It All

The Harvest Moon and Autumn Equinox this week, combined with a free Sunday afternoon, have ripened my desire for SoulCollage creativity and reflection. As often happens, intuitively the card comes together with images I am drawn to. Words follow upon reflection and using the “I am one who…” prompt. (See HERE for more info about How to SoulCollage.)

Card Name– Enough: I Can Never Know It All

I am one who has an appetite for knowledge that is never quenched.

I am one who loves to learn. I want to know more. I want to understand.

I am one who grows weary from my own desire to learn more and more and more.

I never want to be as uninformed as I used to be—about politics, about the suffering of others, about racism or poverty.

I can learn just a little bit more. More knowledge (of good and evil?) seems just a book, podcast, documentary, news article, or Facebook post away.

I am one who creates my own stress, anxiety and overwhelm because I never know enough.

When will I know ENOUGH, I wonder?

I know that I cannot know it all. I need to settle into that knowing.

Knowing is not all or none, one or the other. Authentic knowing is not a spectrum of “knowing nothing” on one end and “knowing it all” on the other. I can let go of dualistic thinking and rest in the balance of enough.

Always We Begin Again, John McQuiston II

I can take a break, stop seeking, and let what I do know move through me into a new kind of knowing.

There is no deadline for which I need to know more. I can give myself some breathing space, a letting go of the pursuit of more, a gentle moving from one season of knowing to another.

I can take a time out with a dose of self-compassion, knowing I will never know it all. I can love learning without letting it consume me.

Yes, that’s it—I give myself permission to not know it all, to not exhaust every source of information that promises more knowing. I can say ENOUGH.

I welcome a new season of unknowing, of revealing, of growing, of I don’t know, of enough.

A little help from my friend, Bailey.
Harvest (full-ish) Moon in Nebraska.

Written by Jodi Blazek Gehr ©

Something Old, Something New

After 36 years of marriage, Joe and I have so many “remember when” moments, the makings of great stories to be told over and over. This last year of marriage we are the “something old” in the cliche and “something new” was celebrated by welcoming our new son-in-law, John, when our daughter, Jessica and he were married on July 17, 2021.

So on August 17, 2021 we celebrate 36 years; John and Jessica celebrate one month. Something old, something new.

Joe and I on August 17, 1985 drinking fake champagne from glasses labeled Bride and Groom. We saved them for a “something new” moment.
Joe and I at John and Jessica’s wedding. July 17, 2021
And the “something new” couple using the same champagne glasses that Joe and used in 1985. We were honored to share them with the newlyweds.

A marriage is made of moments. When you string them all together, you get a picture of a life built together. A marriage isn’t made, once and for all, when the I-dos are exchanged. A marriage is constantly being recreated; it is always in the process of becoming. I shared this sentiment in a blessing at their wedding, see From This Day Forward, To Have and To Hold.

Continue reading “Something Old, Something New”

2021 Word of The Year

Choosing a word of the year can be a prayerful intention as well as creative expression. There is nothing magical about one word over another, but I find the process insightful and revealing—both spiritually comforting and challenging. I worked with the idea of doorways and thresholds for several weeks after realizing how many cards in my SoulCollage® collection had images of doors on them.

“Doors are places for pausing, of finding your key, of knocking, of asking for entry. Thresholds carry us from one place to another – usually from outside to inside or the other way around.  They are symbols of our inner movements…. I believe that our lives are about crossing one threshold after another. Thresholds are challenging places to be because there is no map. There is no ten-step plan for how to move through this space. We feel disoriented there and impatient in having to wait.”

Christine Valters Paintner

I thought about selecting a word like welcome or becoming, or simply doorway or threshold. The images resonated, but the words were not quite right. I considered what it feels like to stand on the threshold of the unknown, to step through the doorway of uncertainty. The moment of crossing over can require courage, honesty, a surrendering, a willingness to be transformed.

“Our uncertainty is the doorway into mystery, the doorway into surrender, the path to God that Jesus called “faith.” -Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder

Extending hospitality to guests, as St. Benedict instructed in The Rule, can be practiced towards the uncertainty that life brings, the times when we can no longer control our circumstances and we must surrender our expectations. We can extend hospitality towards all that is mystery and trust that we will be transformed in the process. We may not know what we are walking into, but we can grow into acceptance of whatever comes.

“We need to honor what is on both sides of the doorway: to celebrate the whole of our lives, the self we are leaving behind as well as the self toward which we are going.”  

Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern, On the Threshold

The threshold moment requires an acceptance of what has been, what is, and what possibilities may come. The threshold moment, if we wish to honor each moment as life-giving and transformational, forces us to see our truth, the truth of our desires, and the truth of our circumstances.

If you are interested in transformation, no element is more important than developing a love of truth. As we learn to accept what is real in the present moment, we are more able to accept whatever arises in us, because we know that it is not the whole of us… When we are willing to be with the whole truth—whatever it is –we have more inner resources available to deal with whatever we are facing.” –The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson.

And this brings me to my 2021 word of the year: TRUTH.

Continue reading “2021 Word of The Year”

The Light Shines in the Darkness

We are still in the Christmas season.

During Advent, we wait in darkness for the light of Christmas Day. We circle around the Advent wreath, igniting another candle each week.

Image may contain: candles

Advent is about longing for the God that breaks into time and space as a baby in a manger. Advent is about cultivating patience and not rushing to the Incarnation. Advent is the ultimate “vorfreude”, anticipating the joy of God becoming one of us, that God in his humanity has shared with us his divinity.

“God became human so that his divine life might flow into us and free us from our mortality and impermanence…to fulfill the deepest longings for transformation and the healing of lives.”

Anselm Grün, A Time of Fulfillment

The Advent wreath symbolizes the coming of the birth of Jesus, the light of Christmas drawing near and the anticipation of the Christ-light breaking into our life and world. With each passing week, the candle represents our hope that light will dispel the darkness.

So it is with us. We circle around the same issues, questions, and problems in our lives, struggling with the dark and light within us and around us. And we pray that God breaks in, that the light will prevail.

Light and Darkness: our life is filled with both. WE are filled with both.

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Spending time creating collages during the Christmas season is prayer for me. Consider some creative possibilities with Sanctuary, an free online retreat.

 “When we come to understand that everything in our world, including its darker aspects, derives from God, we begin to realize that much of what we perceive as “bad” is, from the divine perspective, simply another piece of the sacred whole…that which appears as darkness to us may very well be the beacon to our redemption.”

Niles Elliot Goldstein, God at the Edge

The beauty of the Advent season is recognizing and honoring this darkness in ourselves, in others and in the world.  This darkness that we prefer to deny, flee from or quickly fix is actually the beginning of something new and hopeful happening in ourselves.  The darkness can bring a great light.  “We see the darkness and we forget even darkness is light to God.” (Deidra Riggs, Every Little Thing)

journey through darkness into light
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:2)
A collage creation during Christmas season.

The expectant and hopeful waiting in Advent when Jesus is in the womb, where possibility of new birth is upon us in the waiting and tender honing of our patience, is where we must begin. We begin in the womb.

Consider creating a SoulCollage® card or journaling with the following questions:

So what is it that needs to be birthed within us? In our world?  

How do we accept and forgive the darkness in our selves and others while nurturing and encouraging the positive?

What can we bring out of darkness and into the light?

What gives us the strength to wait in patience, to trust that our circling around will bring us into the light?

“I am one who” is a prompt to begin to speak from and about the images that intuitively come together. Using all three of the collage creations on this post, I write:Advent dark and light

I am one who walks through rough and rocky terrain.
I am one who dances gracefully in the light.
I am one who casts shadows. I am one who gets stuck.
I am one who circles around and around, sometimes feeling a little lost.

I trudge reluctantly… or tread carefully… or move forward faithfully.
I am one who, with open arms, embraces both dark and light: in myself, in others, in my world.
I see the light and the darkness, the gold and the shadows, the smooth and the rough.
I go through all…the white sand, the gold dust, the smooth and rocky, the hard and broken, the shadowy or the illuminated, the gray, the light, the dark.

I am one who is filled with hope. I pray. I am one who feels hopeless too.
Eyes open, door ajar, I glimpse the light.
I am one who closes my eyes, sometimes trusting and at times in denial.
I dance the dance of light and darkness.

I stretch out my arms in surrender to the moments, layers, phases, experiences that are light and darkness intermingled;
Darkness that seems like it will never pass and pure, unadulterated light that never ends.
I am one who believes that the Christ-child covers both light and dark, in me and in the world.

I hope, I pray that I hold the two in balance; honoring both, recognizing both, knowing I am both, knowing others are both.
I surrender to rebirth, to a new way of being and seeing and accepting.
I am one who holds together the dark and the light.

“…the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1-1:5

May the darkness of Advent, the light of Christmas, and the new insights of Epiphany be with you. By holding the sufferings and joys of our life together, may we come to see Christ in new ways.

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Circle of Friends: Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.

And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships lately–both old and new, those friends who are near and far, and those who have passed away.

In 2015, our Circle lost a dear sister. Judy passed away only a year or so after being diagnosed with a rare, incurable, fast-growing cancer. For the last several weeks of her life, Judy was unable to leave her bed and wanted few visitors, but it was important for our Circle to continue sending our love and prayers. Even if we weren’t physically present, we wanted her to feel that we held her in our heart. Each of us committed to a day of the week that we would send Judy some kind of card, note or greeting. In this time of pandemic, just as we did with Judy, we can stay connected with our loved ones.

Judy, Laura, Ruth, Joyce, me and Katie–some of our Circle who came to my first SoulCollage® retreat at St. Benedict Center.

Judy was a lover of SoulCollage®—she came to my first retreat at St. Benedict Center and fell in love with the process. She started meeting weekly to cut, paste and create with our friend, Beth. The practice became a form of expression and prayer for her and she even shared it with her daughters and grandchildren on one of their last vacations together on Captiva Island. Making and sending a SoulCollage® card to honor Judy and our Circle was a form of creative prayer for me.

I was drawn to images that represented the strong, hard-working, loving women that had met together monthly for several years. I hoped the card would make Judy smile, bring her a little joy and remind her of the bond we all shared. It also gave me the chance to put images and words to how I feel about our Circle.

Continue reading “Circle of Friends: Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.”

Praying with Collage: Seek Peace and Pursue It

School starts this week. It has been five months since I have been in a real-life classroom with my students. After spring break, we immediately went to online learning for the remainder of the school year.

What it means to be a teacher, captured in a SoulCollage® card. More blogs about teaching HERE

I have been so encouraged by those who have asked me how things are going, promising their prayers. I was encouraged by my friend, Sara, to create a SoulCollage® card that I could keep at school as a reminder to pray when I am feeling overwhelmed or anxious. My prayer is that I can find some peace despite the fear of the unknown. My prayer is to remember to seek peace and pursue it, as St. Benedict instructs (RB Prologue 17), and to include time in my day for silence and meditation. Continue reading “Praying with Collage: Seek Peace and Pursue It”

A Divine Encounter: Trusting the Journey

My cup was running empty. Six surreal months of the pandemic, political turmoil, and feelings of anxiety facing an uncertain and challenging school year has taken its toll on my mind, body, and spirit. Finally, the timing was right this weekend, and it felt safe to return to my spiritual home, St. Benedict Center. It takes just moments for a deep peace to settle in as I take my overnight bag to my room and head outside to enjoy a beautiful afternoon.

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Wandering the path around the lake, I see Ellen, a fellow pilgrim from last summer—which feels like a warm bath of blessings. I had been looking forward all week to reconnecting, knowing she would be there.

Suddenly I hear a shout, “Surprise!”  Sara, a special friend, Oblate and SoulCollage® companion, is running towards me with open arms despite all COVID caution.  I exclaim, “I didn’t know you were going to be here!” Sara repeats “I didn’t know you were going to be here!” There may have been more exclamations of “I can’t believe this!”, “Oh, my God!” and finally, “Did you bring some of your SoulCollage® cards?” We decide to meet later to share some of our cards and seek them for guidance—what we call “a reading.” Continue reading “A Divine Encounter: Trusting the Journey”

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